Libertarians and progressives are aligning behind a bill to bar donors to inaugural and transition committees from registering as lobbyists.
Gov. Janet Mills shows her L.L. Bean boots on stage on Jan. 4, 2023, at her second inauguration in Augusta. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.

AUGUSTA, Maine — An eclectic group of Maine lawmakers is trying to close a lobbying loophole in a campaign finance law that makes governors disclose contributions to their inaugurations and transitions.

The history: The reform, passed by Maine voters in 2015, made Janet Mills the first Maine governor who had to disclose fundraising and spending for inaugural festivities and the transition teams that help choose top staffers and lay groundwork for the first budget proposal. 

Corporate contributions have generally fueled these teams, but lobbyists are barred from contributing to them during legislative sessions that start in early December after an election. But lobbying registrations expire in November of each year, allowing lobbyists to let them lapse before contributing and then registering with the state again. 

Here’s the group: Rep. David Boyer, R-Poland, is leading an alliance of lawmakers trying to close the loophole by submitting a bill printed Tuesday barring anyone who contributes to one of these committees from registering as a lobbyist for the duration of the governor’s term.

Among his co-sponsors are Sens. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, and Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth, plus other libertarian-minded conservatives and progressive Democrats, including Rep. Sophie Warren of Scarborough, who was first elected as an independent.

The rub: Boyer’s bill would not fully close the door on lobbying money. The firms employing lobbyists have always been allowed to donate themselves. Among the $10,000 contributors to Mills’ 2022-23 committee were Preti Flaherty and Verrill Dana, two of the main government affairs firms keeping watch over activities in Augusta. 

Many other businesses and associations that hire lobbyists also typically give to the governor’s funds, going back to the days of former Gov. Paul LePage, who voluntarily disclosed donors but not amounts during his 2010 transition.

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Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...